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The Long and Short of Stretching

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You may have been stretching wrong your entire life...

There’s a lot of information floating around regarding when to stretch, how long to stretch for, which routines are most effective, etc. It can become confusing, so let’s simplify it by breaking it down into two broad groups: static stretching and dynamic stretching. Static means stationary; when you think of classic stretching routines like touching your toes and holding for 10 seconds you’re thinking of static stretches. Dynamic means in motion; this is where you use momentum from movements to actively stretch muscles or muscle groups.

The popularity of static stretching has dipped recently with studies showing that it may decrease strength or power if used before exercise. Basically, muscles must remain between certain lengths in order to contract with an optimal amount of force, and static stretching can lengthen them to the point where they are outside of this ideal range. This does not, however, make static stretching obsolete – as we will soon discuss.

The fall of static stretching has made room for the rise of dynamic stretching – and here’s why you should be adding it to your fitness routine. Dynamic stretching safely and effectively warms up your muscles without extending them past their optimal length, meaning it’s a perfect pre-exercise routine because you will not experience a drop-off in power. The bottom-line is that you get all the benefits of a proper warm-up with no decrease in muscular strength.

Although dynamic stretching has taken the fitness world by storm, static stretching still has an important role in any exercise routine. The temporary muscle-lengthening effect has no impact post-exercise, and static stretching has been shown to improve range of motion and mobility, so be sure to finish off your routine by sitting down and stretching it out the good old-fashioned way.

Jarett Schaumberger, BScKin